In the thriving metropolis of Kuala Lumpur the Kuala Lumpur Visual Arts Gallery is Malaysia ‘s most under utilised cultural resource.
Located in a central part of town , opposite a large school , it was totally empty apart from bored looking women ushers . Even the cab driver requested a map from the hotel concierge , and confessed that he had never been there before .
Housed in a large white modern building , the receptionist proudly informed me there were six galleries . Two on each of the three floors . Entry to all exhibits was free.
The ground floor housed the portrait gallery , fairly mundane stuff of colonial rulers and historical figures . Two , impasto , expressionist portraits provided some relief.
Indigenous Malay art was housed on the first floor and was a mix of realistic peasant scenes , batik work , and black and white photography . An avante garde show was on the second floor exhibiting work by a local Malay artist , exploring the effect of Islam on his work . In his writings accompanying the work , he attributes his creativity to his religious beliefs . The work was a series of large canvases painted in oil with graduated cloud like effects , with rows of Sanskrit written across them , in abstract format .
At the pinnacle of the gallery , was the finest work , in my opinion . It was the Malaysian equivalent of our annual VCE top arts exhibition .
Here young artists had occupied the entire top floor gallery space with a large variety of work . It included installations of plastic mesh , sewn pieces and collages , bitumen and earth paintings , led lights , epoxy resin and enamel work , origami , and spray paint on Perspex . Many paintings also adopted the more traditional format of oil , acrylic and water colour mediums on canvas and paper .
What was apparent was the sheer exuberance of these young artists , their ability to work across many mediums , and the trial and experimentation of their work . It provided a cornucopia of ideas , styles and mediums for this budding artist . The talented bunch will lead Malaysia into a bright future for visual art , with their creative skill and innovative mark making . The gallery deserves greater patronage than it had on the day I attended . I wasn’t able to buy a catalogue of Malaysia arts 14 , as the gallery shop was closed . Like most of KL it seems to be under renovation !
Lower East Side Manhattan, was my home for one glorious month in November, 2010. A low rise, brownstone apartment housed four of us in modest style. It was noisy, exhilarating, a relentless sea of people and cars, but never dull .Whilst there I experienced Halloween, the five consecutive night baseball playoffs, between the Mets and Yankees, both local NYC teams, and the Melbourne Cup . It felt like the whole city was in a permanent party mode.
Fittingly Americain, won the Cup that year, we celebrated by finding a late night bar run by an expatriate Melbourne father and son team, and watched the big race, in the wee small hours. The Halloween Parade that went for multiple city blocks, was hugely popular with paradees and viewers alike, and seemed to host an all night subway party. Baseball blared from every bar, coffee shop and restaurant, on a nightly basis, as the 2010 World Series Games were played out.
A highlight of the trip was multiple visits to MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, who were hosting a Van Gogh retrospective exhibition, and the Guggenheim Museum. Both exemplary viewing spaces and innovators in the visual arts. I loved the Staten Island Ferry, and the vintage shops on the Island. The Bowery was home to great bagels and cheap booze. Flea Markets abounded in Brooklyn, and inexpensive, end of season shopping, was to be had in New Jersey. Legendary, cavernous, warehouse sized thrift shops, threw up priceless gems,eg; Vera Wang new black satin cocktail pants, and Jimmy Choo barely worn heels, all with bargain price tags .
It was an inspiring visit and one I hope to replicate in the not too distant future .
Went and saw the movie ” Advanced Style ” today , at ACMI 2 . It was screening as part of MIFF , Melbourne Film Festival .
Based on a popular blog by Ari Seth Coen , the film features six elderly New Yorkers , all women , and the way they dress .
Each woman is sensitively portrayed . It shows their lifestyle in NYC and the sublime way they attire themselves . Innately individual they each have a unique mode of attire from vintage to classical , they are living art . Each day is a creation of couture and the backdrop of Manhatten is a perfect foil to their folly . As equally impressive as the outfits is their massive age , 95 , 92 , 87 , with the youngest being 67. Just proves true style , fashion sense and grace is ageless .
It was many smallish stands , spread over the two main floors of the building .
Interactive displays , installations , gigantic canvases , small & large prints abounded .
It was sensory overload as I gazed upon this vast display of contemporary Australian art . Exhibitors had come from far & wide within Australia , including Brisbane to Perth . The creative output of Aussie artists is enormous . Old stagers like Andrew Sibleys portraits of the 70’s , nestled beside Del Kathryn Barton’s , stunning , recent portraitures . Cars , chocolates , flowers , and roving champagne carts were all in the mix .
Particular favourites included one of Adam Cullen’s paintings from his Ned Kelly , the Bushranger series , & ” the Skipping Girl , Little Audrey 2014 , Jim Thalassoudis . I love the bold use of colour and strong figurative style of the former , and the childhood memory the latter evokes .
An interesting, interactive performance , titled ” love is in the Fair ” challenged onlookers . It was a bold , fun concept , cleverly conceived and innovatively performed , by charming hosts Adele and Peter .
Saw Fiona somerville’s show at bright spaces gallery in st Kilda last week .
It’ was titled “ruined ” . Conjures up many pre – conceived ideas and visual images . The show was not what I was expecting . The artist has a unique choice of subject matter . Her work is about the detritus of Australia’s more recent rural past. She depicts the remnants of shacks, humpys and dongas lying about in our landscape . She depicts them in a clean , almost candy box like format . The lines are clean , the palette pastel and their is an absence of the bush landscapes and people native to the region of her work . An engaging and visceral body of work it challenges the viewer to disassociate ourselves from the obvious expectation of the title to view the work .
As a visual artist I work with of sea ravaged , gathered and ruined objects . It challenged and expanded my expectations of this subject matter .
It was big , unwieldy and eminently untransportable . How to get it to VU ? certainly not on a slow moving Sandringham line train . I could just hear the shouts of indignation , and rude expletives as I tried to wedge it sideways onto the commuter train at 8.03 am monday morning .
Nothing for it , it would have to be driven in !! Gasp ! its like ! huge , t he 17 year old learner driver exclaimed as I attempted to secure it to the roof of the car . Not my car , its too small , but the larger other car had to be called into service . Dangling tent guy ropes , old shoelaces , torn rags , any binding agent that I thought would work was used to secure it .
Hmm , didn’t look that big when I first rescued it from the hard rubbish , and skewed it home , hanging out the boot of my car .
A slow procession was made through the sleepy sunday morning streets of Elsternwick . No speeding I exhorted to the hapless driven , or we might become airborne ! A foray into chaotic Kings Way saw us take the outside line , proceeding at a gentle 55 km per hour . I was on tenterhooks as we sometimes accelerated , waiting for the dreaded ripping sound as the canvas left its moorings and pirouetted into the path of the oncoming traffic . Didn’t happen . Town loomed and I exhaled gradually . Stopping in Flinders St I finally breathed and gleefully congratulated my daughter on getting us there intact . Trembling , I unloaded the canvas easing it out of its haphazard bondage , and sauntered into the lift at VU . It was a Sunday , and it would insist on stopping only at the 15th floor . I couldn’t cajole it to go any further despite frantic swiping with my fob . Exiting , I plunged toward the stairwell , and feverishly dragged the enormous canvas up the two flights of stairs to level 17 . Finally , secured in my studio looking resplendent with a coat of gesso , its all ready to go . Now what to do with it !! Watch this space .
A studio space has been enjoyed for the second half of 2014, by grateful VU students. It on the 17 th Floor, 300 Flinders St, commanding great views over the city, and giving us a taste of what its like to work in a commercial studio space. Most days it has provided a refuge, an escape, a study retreat, a repository of our efforts, and an inspiring place to work. A unique view of the CBD, is afforded us on three sides of the building.
Looking east across Swanston st , to Russell st and beyond , offers the interesting sight of the back of the dilapidated, iconic, Nicholas Building, resplendent with graffiti, and damaged fittings, and fixtures .
A northern aspect reveals, modern apartments, complete with swimming pool, shadowed by 1970’s high rises of rounded concrete and many windows .
My view, which I consider to be the best, is West facing, and also offers a corner view of the South. The river, bay, and riverbank are revealed. It foreshortens the Casino, exposes parts of South and Port Melbourne, and extends to ” Jeff’s Shed ” and beyond on a ceaseless horizon .
I have relished this studio space, made it my own, and installed the essence of my work, the found object. Alas , it is now time to begin to pack it up, clean the area for the final presentation of folios ,and bid goodbye .
Whilst I am sad to leave, I know it is not the final adieu. Being a part time student in 2014, I will return to complete my diploma in 2015. As a painting student, I will be afforded the luxury of again using a studio space, at VU.
The thought niggled at the back of my mind like a worrisome toothache .
Gasp ! I had purchased just one ticket to attend the esteemed Women Of Letters November Outing. Would i be brave enough to go solo when the time came ? Sure I had watched two other people do it . One a young man , who’s partner was possibly performing on stage , and the other a young woman , who took copious notes , maybe , a journalism student .
The day arrived . I hastily planted out my vegie patch , washed the car , dog , clothes , engaging in endless domestic minutiae , anything to delay the inevitable moment of departure . The middle daughter imperiously informed me it was time to go . Not one to be argued with , the third of four children , she wages a daily battle with an older brother , and both younger and older sister , a cranky mother and headstrong border collie . To say she is assertive is an understatement .
I meekly got in the car , in my gardening clothes , don’t want to go too glammed up and draw attention to myself , although i hastily applied foundation to cover the glaring freckles , the spring sun has awakened on my fevered brow . No time to prevaricate I begin a frenzied descent down punt rd . Have I also mentioned the middle daughter drives likes a maniac .The youngest daughter attempted to impede my departure , by a belated request for a drop off to the next suburb . ” Get the train ” , I breathlessly uttered as we catapulted out of the driveway .
In headspinningly quick time we mounted the rise of the high st hill and the theatre loomed large , dark and foreboding above us . We were there .” You can do this “, my brain screamed . You’ve birthed 4 children , buried 2 parents , left behind your country roots to become a southside urban dweller , loved , laughed ,cried , and blundered through 56 years of life . ” What are you afraid off ? ” ” Get over yourself “, a line a I frequently chant at my battle scarred kids , sprang to mind .
Ejected rudely in a screech of brakes , and wave of petrol fumes , I was unceremoniously dumped at the side door , by an uncaring daughter . I jauntily leapt out , and tenuously mounted the front steps , furtively looking around , envying the jostling crowd of women together , and in groups . I tentatively handed across my crumpled , sweat laden entry ticket , upside down , to an uncaring , unseeing , Marieke Hardy . Did she suspect I was on my own , and smell my fear ?
I made it to the foyer where the bar provided a welcome distraction . No just a glass I croak out as those all around me order bottles , 2 glasses , 4 cans , and every combination of multiple orders .Its a chance to fill in a few more precious minutes , and blend into the crowd .
Tottering inside , clutching my glass like some sort of talisman , I squint around with some trepidation . Many tables are already filled , the front ones sporting reserved signs , oh , the omnipotent dilemma of where to sit ! I approach a table half full of women facing the stage and nervously ask if this seat is vacant . I receive a very frosty reception as the firmly ensconced , lead iron maiden , informs me , ” yes they are all reserved “. I stumble blindly away in panic , my whole being suffused with embarrassment . I chance upon a round table in the middle of the room , where an elderly lady sits with a young man , and another three couples , who include men partners. Encouraged , I tentatively ask , yes ,this seat is spare , and I sink into it with a sense of relief . Nervously I glance around , the man is reading , the older lady writing , and the couples are carousing with bottles of wine . I too write , to my daughter , on the proffered Chinese aerogramme . I thank her for initiating me into this literary world . It is she who introduced me to this gig , many years ago now . I remember all the occasions we jointly attended , all the inspirational speakers we have heard , both men and women , and the great love of the written word we both share . She has gone from me now . A journalist , she is grown , and living in far flung Edinburgh , with a career as a wordsmith , a partner , and a home of her own .
The soiree progresses , music and wine flows , many inspirational women grace the stage , and talk ,eloquently and passionately on all manner of things . A young man sits next to me , finding as I did , a single seat alone , but he is not truly alone , as his wife is a presenter on stage he proudly informs me .
It is a wonderful afternoon and I manage to write 2 postcards and well as my letter . I ask Marieke where they are performing in Scotland and as she proudly informs me it is Glasgow , in april , a kernel of an idea forms in my mind . Dare I plan to meet Bridget there , couriering her precious , RMIT Bachelor of Communication Journalism Degree Certificate , to entice her to come from Edinburgh , and meet me , travelling from Melbourne . It could be an appropriate reunion at Women of Letters ,and one I wouldn’t have to attend alone !
Swaggering down the airport forecourt came the three denizens of animal print couture .
Three mighty examples of large , round , forceful , Hungarian womanhood , strode strode toward me adorned in top to toe animal print , fake gold , black or tight denim .
They were a force to be reckoned with , this majestic trio , trailing gargantuan suitcases
in their wake .
They literally didn’t shut up , and their assault on the Wizz Air drinks trolley , only served to rejuvenate their well developed vocal cords.
I loosely termed them the ocelot triplets .
Life giver , saver , wrangler and tamer that I am , I could hardly be termed squeamish , but they scared the hell outta me .
I voyeuristically gazed on , totally enthralled , & trapped in their spell as they gabbled , burped , farted , and transported themselves from the Hungarian to Ottoman Empires.
Silence was banished from Budapest departure gate 3 , until Istanbul passport control , where they presented a tri edged assault on the quaking Turkish customs official.
Number one was dressed in gloriously distressed stretch denims , black and gold emblazoned skintight tshirt , gold lame jacket Liberace would,ve been proud to own , and the piece de resistance , a pair of black fake leather storm trooper boots , strapped with three trapdoor size fake gold buckles across each.
Number two had the black version of the jeans , black top with indecipherable Hungarian quip ,all in gold of course , and fake leather black biker jacket sporting gold and ocelot embellishments ,looking like a latter day Michael Jackson impersonator.
Number three , a woman mountain , clearly the leader of the pack , was bedecked in head to toe black , and 100 variations of animal print .
This lady was not to be messed with , and clasped an animal toned handbag big enough to house all of Central Europe , to her vast bosom .
Muffin topped, peroxided , blinged up , 50 plus ,
foundation encrusted , they sported enough black eyeliner to ring the entire Australian coast line .
Fluoro orange talons gripped the headrests of our seat upon arrival in Turkey , and jointly they uttered the only words of English I ever heard them say ” who dares wins ”